“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5: 16b – 18)
Verse seventeen says, Elijah prayed earnestly. Literally translated, the verse reads very emphatically, “Elijah prayed when he prayed.” Do we? Jesus warns his disciples against empty repetition or the vain chanting of sounds, so how can be we be earnest when we pray? How can we make sure we pray when we’re praying?
- Does my praying sanctify the Lord God in my heart? (1 Peter 3: 15) “This, then, is how you should pray,” Jesus said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6: 9) There is something about our every prayer that should bring us to our knees, overwhelm us, leave us in awestruck wonder, and acknowledge that “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1 Kings 18: 39)
But, at the same time prayer brings us to our knees, prayer raises us in light of God’s “eternal power and divine nature”. (Romans 1: 20) What a mighty God we serve is not a question. It is the affirmation of every prayer.
2. Is my praying more about representing the Lord and His kingdom and will or more about requesting God’s help with establishing my kingdom or will? Representing or requesting? What do you think? Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6: 10)
3. Is my praying more a perpetuation of my stubbornness and personality or a practice through which God prescribes for me what I need each day? Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6: 11)
4. Do I forgive as I pray? Do I tear the walls down or fortify the obstructions and barriers that I feel in my soul? Do I clear the path for God’s blessing in my life to flow freely through me or do I pile up materials for blocking and diverting that blessing? Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6: 12, 14 – 15)
5. When I pray who gets put to the test? When Jesus teaches us to pray: “lead us not into temptation,” (Matthew 6: 13) he is acknowledging our human frailty. Jesus is not trying to cover for God or give us an excuse for unbelief.
When the disciples were first confronted with the nature and blessing of Jesus, it exposed who they were. In that time of testing, Peter fell before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5: 8) But, Jesus didn’t go anywhere. Instead, Jesus committed himself to making Peter a fisher of men.
When we pray, “lead us not into temptation” we are praying for Jesus’ commitment to be fully realized in us and that the tests we go through will not only be revelations of our weakness but revelations of Jesus’ strength and faithfulness.
The Apostle Paul affirmed this when he said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8: 35 – 37)
6. When I pray do I expect to see the salvation of God revealed? Does my praying only allow God to give the answer? “This then, is how you should pray,” Jesus said, “deliver us from the evil one”. (Matthew 6: 13)
“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18: 36 – 37)